San Diego’s hidden gem pockets!

An exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum explains how San Diego County is the richest region in California for precious gems.

Gemstones that can be found in the mountains of San Diego County include tourmaline, garnet, topaz, beryl and spodumene. We are world-renowned for our tourmaline!

The exhibit demonstrates how these precious gems form inside pegmatites–a rock formation that can occur as magma cools. Large gem bearing pegmatites are found in San Diego’s North County, near Palomar Mountain.

Tourmaline has been mined in San Diego County since the 1890s. The Himalaya Mine alone has extracted about 250,000 pounds of mineral specimens.

I remember as a boy heading with my family up to the Stewart Lithia mine in Pala. For a fee, we spent an hour on hands and knees sifting through the mine tailings, searching for gems. We were delighted to find a handful of small pink, green and watermelon tourmalines! We also found a fair amount of lepidolite (a source of lithium). It was a lot of fun!

I see the Himalaya Mine has a Facebook page. Check it out here.

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